A place in the quarter-finals will be on the line when Croatia and Denmark lock horns on Sunday. THT looks at two key battles that could shape up this Round of 16 tie.
Following a fiery start to the knockout rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the day two of the Round of 16 matches will look to provide us with further excitement as Denmark meet Croatia on Sunday evening.
Deemed as one of the dark-horses coming into this tournament, Croatia, in particular, will be eager to perform well, after an early exit from the competition four years ago. Hrvatska are coming into this game having boasted a 100% record and are strongly regarded favourites to reach the next stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
However, standing in their way will be a strong and rigid Denmark side, who have remained solid throughout the course of their group stage matches. Denmark’s bore stalemate against France, who piled up four goals against Argentina to become the first team to reach the quarter-finals, depicted their defensive work-ethic and will thus provide a great challenge for the Croats.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at a couple of personal duels that could potentially decide the outcome of this highly anticipated Round of 16 game this weekend.
Luka Modric vs Thomas Delaney
Croatian midfield genius Luka Modric has arguably been the best midfielder of the competition so far, thanks to his blazing performances in all three of the group games. His performance against Argentina, in particular, helped Croatia lay their dominance in one of the toughest groups in this edition of the FIFA World Cup.
In addition, the Real Madrid superstar also scored one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
Therefore, stopping him would be imperative for Denmark if they are to beat this dangerous Croatia team, driven by the ingenuity of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the central midfield position. And the onus will be on midfielder Thomas Delaney to do just that.
Regarded as one of the most illustrious midfielders in the Bundesliga, Delaney will once again be a key component for Denmark this weekend as he attempts to nullify the dangerous Luka Modric. His immense work-ethic coupled with his non-stop desire to get forward will provide a glimmer of hope for the Denmark fans as they face off against the mighty Croats this weekend.
Furthermore, Thomas Delaney has recently sealed a move to Borussia Dortmund earlier this month and it will be a perfect opportunity for him to showcase his talents as he looks to make an impression to his new employers.
Ante Rebic vs Jens Stryger Larsen
One of the most impressive attackers for Croatia in this World Cup, Ante Rebic has played a role in their success in the group stages. A bulky forward, who is capable of causing a havoc in the opposing defence, Rebic accounts for more dribbles than any other Croatian whilst also scoring the all-important opener against Argentina.
In fact, the Eintracht Frankfurt attacker has witnessed a significant rise in his stock, largely thanks to his performances in the group stages. This has led to the likes of Everton, Borussia Dortmund and even Tottenham Hotspur showing a keen interest in his services this summer.
A lively figure in the final third, Rebic is always a threat going forward but his main asset lies on the counter attacks, where he can use his pace and physicality to storm through the opposing defence.
Therefore, stopping him would provide to be a huge challenge for Danish left-back Jens Stryger Larsen. The Udinese defender has been a regular fixture in Denmark starting eleven but Rebic’s sheer physical prowess is definitely something to be wary of.
Unlike usual personal duels between an attack and a defender, we can expect Larsen and Rebic to indulge in a more physical battle that will have major repercussions in the outcome of this game.